The two following itineraries are, in a certain sense, complementary.
Though each has a distinct character of its own, the two of them have many features in common and both converge upon a city which, apart from evolving an extremely original way of life and a unique artistic style of its own, exerted an influence far beyond that of the usual medieval or Renaissance city-state: Venice.
This magical city quite rightly appears twice in our travels: the first time, in an excursion which, dedicated as it is to the Renaissance in the Po Valley, includes the capitals of the ancient principalities, those court centers whose magnificence greatly contributed to the enrichment of European culture: Milan of the Visconti and the Sforzas, Mantua of the Gonzagas, Verona of the Scaligers, Ferrara and Modena of the Earnest; and tiny Sabbioneta, whose present countrified aspect still offers evidence of the brave and passionate dream of its one great prince, Vespasiano Gonzaga.
Among these cities, which might rightly include Bergamo, Brescia, Vicenza and Bologna which, though not capitals, nevertheless carried the figurative arts and the art of living to the highest level of expression, Venice occupies a unique position.
The itinerary also passes near two lakes: Iseo Lake and Garda Lake, on their own worth a visit.
Setting off from Milan down the Autostrada on the morning of the third day of our trip, we reach, after some 30 miles, the city of Bergamo, well worth one day visit.
We leave Bergamo in the direction of the Iseo Lake, going through Seriate, an old village on the banks of the River Serio, and then Trescore, with important frescoes by Lotto in the Oratory of Villa Guardi. After passing the romantic Lake Eudine, we reach (25 miles) the town of Lovere at the far end of the Lake of Iseo and start off down the eastern shore. Near Pisogne, we find the Sanctuary of S. Maria della Ncve with frescoes by Romanino (1540); the road descends amidst magnificent scenery towards the Punta alle Croci Bergamasche and runs along beside the lake: from Sulzano you can take a boat to the Island of Mont’Isola (the largest in any of the Italian lakes) which fills the middle of the lake with its conical mass.
We leave Brescia by taking Viale Venezia in the direction of Lake Garda, the largest of the Italian lakes. After 15 miles, we reach Desenzano and by keeping to the shore of the lake, end up at the gentle peninsula on which stands the many-towered town of Sirmione, with its handsome Scaliger Castle, as welt as several important Roman ruins. At SIRMIONE, we will spend the night, we have the option of spending one additional day without car on the boat on the Lake Garda, and then leaving the next morning, by way of Peschiera, for MANTUA.
We leave Mantua by the Porta Manin, taking the road which, after 25 miles, brings us to VERONA.
The next morning we leave Verona early and after a fine drive (32 miles), skirting the hills, come to Vicenza.
Leaving Vicenza, and travelling some 14 miles along the foot of Monte Grappa, we reach Cittadella, standing within its marvelous 14th century walls, and after another 7 miles, Castetfranco the birthplace of Giorgione, with its red medieval walls, its Castle, its old painted house and the Cathedral which contains, together with works by Veronese and Bassano, one of Giorgione’s masterpieces: a Madonna, painted in 1504.
We leave Treviso and head south.
Some 4 miles later, we reach Mogliano Veneto, and from here soon come to Mestre (14 miles from Treviso), then 5 miles more, partly on the 19th century bridge over the Lagoon, and we are in VENICE.